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Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners offers volunteer opportunities BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER One of the highlights of Gary Jackson’s week is driving to the Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners (IOCP) ReSale 101 shop at 1605 County Road 101 N. in Plymouth for his fourhour shift. The 75-year-old volunteers two to three days a week and loves every minute of it. Kathy Lund, 74, also volunteers with IOCP. For 22 years, the Minnetonka resident has worked as a dispatcher and driver for the organization, offering her time and vehicle to get people where they need to be. Each year, more than 1,600 volunteers like Gary and Kathy help IOCP provide emergency and long-term support for those who need food, clothing, housing, employment, child care, transportation and connections to other resources. IOCP serves approximately 1,700 families a year in eight west suburban Hennepin communities, including Minnetonka Beach, Orono, Plymouth, Wayzata, Hamel, Long Lake, Medicine Lake and Medina. Gary’s professional background was in commercial real estate and retail shopping centers. After retirement, he wanted to find a way to use his extra time to help others. He decided to take a look at nearby IOCP. “I took a fancy to what I saw there,” said Gary. “It’s just a wonderful organization doing great things for the community.” ReSale 101, run by a volunteer leadership team, works to engage the entire community in the work of IOCP through volunteerism and donations, and to sell

quality donated clothing and household items for IOCP’s clients. “All the volunteers really enjoy working there. The spirit and atmosphere generated transcends to our customers. It’s a warm atmosphere that is really inviting,” he said. Gary has worked most positions within the ReSale 101 shop, including team lead and cashier. He also serves on a seven-person operations team comprised of volunteers. Their purpose is to improve operation and continuity of the retail shop. “There are more than 100 volunteers there each week, so we work to minimize miscommunications and optimize effectiveness,” said Gary. Transportation is another area in which volunteers can make a difference in the lives of IOCP families. Based on critical need, IOCP provides financial assistance for car repairs, as well as gas cards, bus cards and Dial-ARide passes. The Rides program relies on volunteers like Lund, who provide transportation to medical appointments, English classes and Adult Basic Education classes for community residents. “I can sign up and dispatch two days a month,” said Kathy. “I pick up medical rides on my own schedule at my own convenience. I enjoy it a lot.” For Kathy, the volunteer opportunity pays her back in many ways. “You get to learn your way around the city. You get familiar driving to all the different hospitals,” said Kathy. She also appreciates the opportunity to stay confident on the roads. “As we get older, it’s good to be brave enough to go on freeways. Once you stop, you lose your confidence.”

Gary Jackson volunteers up to three days a week with IOCP’s ReSale 101 shop located at 1605 County Road 101 North in Plymouth. Photo submitted by IOCP. For fiscal year 2013, IOCP saw a 15 percent increase in the number of volunteers over the previous year, and a 26 percent increase in the hours contributed. This equated to 23.5 full-time staff or 48,840 hours of time from 1,655 individuals. “Volunteers like Kathy and Gary are the heart and soul of IOCP,” said LaDonna Hoy, IOCP executive director. “Their time and talent and generous

service is a miracle multiplier of care for struggling families and kids of our community.  This community couldn’t possibly be what it is or do what it does without them.” For more information on volunteering with IOCP, go to www.iocp.org or call 763-489-7506. Contact Emily Hedges at emilyLhedges@ yahoo.com.


Page 2 Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, July 18, 2013

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Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, July 18, 2013 Page 3

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Cathleen Godsall, right, telemedicine volunteer program coordinator, and Diane Strahan demonstrate how to set up a virtual doctor’s visit.

Finding the right volunteer opportunity at Courage Kenney BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER Diane Strahan and Teresa Sit both hoped to find just the right volunteer opportunity. Diane, a retired nurse, missed working with patients. Teresa wanted something she could do with her teen. Both found exactly what they were looking for with Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Golden Valley. “I missed making home visits to people,” said Diane, who worked as a public health nurse for 40 years. “When I saw this opportunity with the telemedicine program posted on a volunteer website, I thought it sounded interesting.” That was almost two years ago. Since then, the Robbinsdale resident has spent about two hours a week visiting patients

in their homes and facilitating virtual doctor’s appointments. “It’s like a Skype program,” said Diane. “A lot of people have issues getting to their appointments. We bring in the computer, set it up, and the patient can have their doctor’s visit right from home. It makes so much sense for people to be able to do this. I’m sure we will see it more and more.” While in the patient’s home, Diane takes the opportunity to look for other ways to help. “We spend time getting to know them and make it a social visit,” she said. “We might go for a walk, help them with paperwork, or perform some small tasks around the house. Some people are isolated and lonely, and appreciate extra time and attention.”

Cathleen Godsall, LSW, telemedicine volunteer program coordinator, said, “In 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ million-dollar Health Care Innovation Award recognized our volunteer-facilitated telemedicine program as an integral part of the Courage Center Primary Care Clinic’s innovative model of health services to patients with disabilities and chronic diseases.” Gail Peterson, director of the volunteer services added, “Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute is now the fifth-largest rehabilitation provider in the nation. The care model will be unparalleled. Over 2,400 volunteers have an opportunity to support this critical delivery of the rehabilitation continuum of services to clients enabling greater client independence and community integration. Some of these

opportunities include adaptive sports, including skiing, basketball, softball, golf, archery, track and field, soccer, aquatics, wellness and fitness. Additional opportunities are in the field of occupational therapy, speech and physical therapy, and programs designed for the Transitional Rehabilitation Program. We have something for everyone.” Teresa, 53, and her son, Andrew, live near the Courage Kenny facility in Golden Valley. When they first moved in, Teresa, a children’s dentist, was curious about the organization and requested a tour. “It was exactly what I thought it was. I started looking for opportunities for me and my son to get involved,” she said. They found the perfect fit with adaptive COURAGE - TO PAGE 5


Page 4 Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, July 18, 2013

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Jeanne Mason rides in this year’s Tower Days parade as Grand Marshal. The Spring Lake Park City Councilmember was diagnosed with cancer this year, but says laughter helps her through.

Jeanne Mason: ‘Volunteering keeps you young’ BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER Jeanne Mason once saw a television show about a laughing class in Japan. One person would start chuckling and soon the entire group was belly laughing. It made an impression on the Spring Lake Park City Councilmember, who has always considered laughter, and service to others, as life’s best medicine. Since being diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, Jeanne has relied on this philosophy to fuel her recovery and keep each day worth living.

“I like to laugh, and I like being busy. I enjoy what I do and hopefully I’m useful to others,” said Jeanne. “I don’t want to vegetate in a chair.” Jeanne endured a long hospital stay and surgery during the spring. Although chemo treatments are scheduled to continue through the first week of July, the 86-year-old wants to get back to life as usual, which means getting back to work. She has served on the City Council and the Parks and Recreation Commission for 32 years, the school board for 6 years, and has worked a Mercy Hospital for 29 years. Even with this schedule, she

still finds time to give back in numerous other ways. Jeanne is a volunteer receptionist with Sister Kenny Rehabilitation; is a member of Unity Hospital Auxiliary; serves on the advisory board for Opportunities in Emergency Care; sits on the North Metro Cable Commission and the Northstar Corridor Board; sings in her church choir; has been honored for decades of service to the DFL; and even works a concession stand during July softball tournaments. “Volunteering keeps you young. It keeps me motivated to do things. I think

you live longer if you get up every morning and enjoy the day. The idea is ‘don’t stop living,’” said Jennne. But of all of her numerous activities, being a regular cast member with the Palmer Players is the role that affords her the most laughs. She is currently rehearsing a new comedy called “Litter Did They Know.” “I play an eccentric, rich old lady with an invisible dog named Lulu,” said Jeanne. “I love acting and I’ve done it for a long time.” MASON - TO NEXT PAGE


Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, July 18, 2013 Page 5

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Courage FROM PAGE 3 skiing, one of many offerings through Courage Kenny’s Sports and Recreation program. For the past three winters, Teresa and Andrew have volunteered on Sunday mornings at Three Rivers Park District’s Hyland Ski and Snowboard Area in Bloomington. They help with registration and assist chair skiers onto the ski lift. “What we do is simple. It doesn’t require skill or education. It’s more social than anything,” said Teresa. “It’s a great opportunity to get to know other people with the same interests and to serve others.” Now Teresa encourages anyone searching for the ideal volunteer role to take a look at Courage Kenny. “Have a tour and see where your skills will meet their needs,” she said. “Everyone can find something.” For Diane, the volunteer opportunity found with Courage Kenny gives her more than a good feeling. It is a constant inspiration to make the most out of life.

“I’m astounded at how well some people are able to cope with significant disabilities and the quality of life they are able to have,” she said. “They are determined to do as much as they can, and I’m impressed with the people I’ve met.” Courage Center, begun in 1928, and Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, opened in 1942, were both founded to bridge a gap in services for people with disabilities. The two entities came together in 2013 to form Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, a clinical service line of Allina Health, providing services for people with short- and long-term conditions and disabilities in communities throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin. The goal is to improve health outcomes, make it easier for clients and families to get the right services for their needs and reduce costs by preventing complications. For more information on services and locations, visit www.AllinaHealth.org/ couragekenny or www.couragecenter. org. To volunteer, call 763-520-0214. Contact Emily Hedges at emilyLhedges@ yahoo.com.

Mason FROM PREVIOUS PAGE Being on center stage is nothing new to Jeanne. During this year’s Tower Days, she presided over the parade as Grand Marshal. In 1999, she was named Aquatennial Senior Queen and traveled around making appearances at festivals and community events. She still volunteers with the Aquatennial alumni seniors who meet once a month. “We go sing on Fridays twice a month at nursing homes and senior high-rises,” said Jeanne. “We also sing during the Aquatennial’s 10 days of summer when the girls do their talent show. I really like volunteering with Aquatennial.” Jeanne’s quick sense of humor, willingness to help others, and courage to overcome obstacles has made her an inspiration to everyone who knows her, especially her 20 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “I really think all of these amazing

friendships and activities she has, and is involved in, really keep her positive, encouraged and young,” said her granddaughter Jeannie Hutchinson, who manages Jeanne’s CaringBridge site. “We thank God for all the continued support of friends and family.” Hutchinson, along with the rest of her family, recently held a benefit in Spring Lake Park to help cover the cost of Jeanne’s medical bills, transportation costs and lost wages. If you would like to contribute, send a check made out to The Mason Family Benefit Fund, C/O Jeannie Hutchinson, 1630 Reaney Ave., St. Paul, MN, 55106. Contact Emily Hedges at emilyLhedges@yahoo.com.

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Page 6 Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, July 18, 2013

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Bob Ehr was one of 65 volunteers who came together from St. John the Baptist Catholic Church for Metro Paint-A-Thon weekend.

Picking up a bucket and brush for a good cause BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER Rita Esterl hadn’t planned on picking up a paintbrush. When she volunteered to help coordinate Metro Paint-A-Thon for her church, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Savage, she assumed she’d stay behind the scenes, coordinating volunteers, assigning homes and collecting supplies. But when Metro Paint-A-Thon weekend arrived, she couldn’t resist stopping by to take a look. “Everyone was having a lot of fun, and they needed help, so I jumped right in and started painting,” she said. “I recruited my whole family to help.” Each August, volunteers like the ones from St. John the Baptist come together to prime and paint the homes of low-income

seniors and people with disabilities within their communities. Since 1984, Metro Paint-A-Thon volunteers have completed more than 6,300 projects across the Twin Cities metro area. Metro Paint-A-Thon is one of a family of human service programs of the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches (GMCC). Jim Rylander, pastoral minister at St. John the Baptist, has coordinated the church project for six years. This year, they’ve invited a neighboring church, St. James Lutheran Church of Burnsville, to partner with them in order to serve more members of the community. “We notified Molly at Metro Paint-AThon that we would like to come together as a joint effort and get to know each other better,” said Rylander. This year, the two churches hope to re-

cruit 100 volunteers to paint three houses in the Burnsville area over Metro Paint-AThon weekend Aug. 3-4. “Together we decided this would be a great project to work on,” said Jim Gorczycki, St. James Church volunteer coordinator. “Paint-A-Thon is a wonderful family and neighborhood activity and we look forward to working with our neighbors in our common ministry of sharing God’s love through service.” Volunteer teams are comprised of congregations, companies, service organizations, community groups and families. Interested homeowners should complete an application, which is followed by an inspection by an exterior paint expert to determine the need and suitability. Coordinators then match volunteer teams with a home based on its size, location and paint-

ing needs. Molly Chandler, senior services director for Metro Paint-A-Thon, says that helping low-income seniors and disabled adults remain independent in their own homes is important for their vitality, and the vitality of the entire community. “After a Metro Paint-A-Thon team completed painting a home and garage I called to follow up with the homeowner and she told me, ‘These volunteers flew right out of heaven and they were angels. They woke my spirit up.’ Directing and coordinating Metro Paint-A-Thon can be challenging at times, but when I hear a comment like that my spirit awakens as well,” said Chandler. Myrtle Senstad has lived in her Bloomington home for 70 years. PAINTING - TO PAGE 8


Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, July 18, 2013 Page 7

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Social Security: Questions and Answers we need this to process your disability application. You should complete a disability application, a disability report, and an authorization to release medical records to file a claim for disability benefits. To learn more, and to apply online, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability.

Question: I can’t find my Social Security card. How can I get a new one? Answer: First, consider whether you really need a new card. You need to apply for a replacement Social Security card only if you don’t know your Social Security number or, if you need to show your card to a new employer. Even then, you may only need a Social Security number printout to verify your number. If you decide that you do need a card, you can replace it for free in three easy steps. Step 1: Gather documents proving your identity and citizenship or immigration status. Step 2: Complete an Application For a Social Security Card (Form SS-5) Step 3: Take your completed application and original documents to your local Social Security office or your local Social Security Card Center. You’ll receive your replacement card in about 10 to 15 days. The types of documents you need to provide depends on your specific situation. Find out what you need by visiting our “decision tree” at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber. If you don’t need a new card and the printout will do, you still need to show us documents to prove your identity and U.S. citizenship or immigration status. However, you can get your printout during your office visit. Learn more about the Social Security number printout by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs and typing “printout” in the publication search box on the left side of the screen. Question: I worked for the last 10 years and I now have my 40 credits. Does this mean that I get the maximum Social Security retirement benefit? Answer: Probably not. The 40 credits are the minimum number you need to qualify for retirement benefits. However, we do not base your benefit amount on those credits; it’s based on your earnings over a lifetime of work. To learn more about how you earn Social Security credits and how they work, read or listen to our publication How You Earn Credits, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Question: How do I know if I have worked long enough to qualify for Social Security disability benefits?

Question: I’m trying to figure out the best time to retire based on my future earnings. How can I calculate my own retirement benefit estimate? Answer: We suggest you use our Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/ estimator. Our Retirement Estimator produces estimates based on your actual Social Security earnings record, so it’s a personalized, instant picture of your future estimated benefit. Also, you can use it to test different retirement scenarios based on what age you decide to start benefits. For example, you can find out your estimated monthly payments if you retire at age 62, 70, or any age in between. Try it out now at www. socialsecurity.gov/estimator. Question: I’ve been working for about 10 years and haven’t given much thought to the Social Security taxes I’ve been paying. How do I earn Social Security credits?

Answer: A “Social Security credit” (sometimes referred to as a “quarter of coverage”) is the basic unit for determining whether a worker is insured under the Social Security program. The amount needed for a credit increases automatically each year as average wages increase. For 2013, workers receive one credit for each $1,160 of earnings. A worker can receive a maximum of four credits for any year. Generally, you need 40 credits to be eligible for retirement benefits. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/COLA/QC.html Question: I’m applying online for disability benefits. What is the difference between the disability application and the disability report? Do I have to complete both? Answer: Yes, you will need to complete both when you apply for disability benefits. To receive Social Security disability benefits, you must file a disability application. A disability report provides information about your current physical or mental condition and

Answer: You must have worked long enough – and recently enough – under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits. Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits each year. The amount needed for a credit changes from year to year. In 2013, for example, you earn one credit for each $1,160 of wages or self-employment income. When you have earned $4,640, you’ve earned your four credits for the year. The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which you earned in the last 10 years, ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits. To learn more, see our Disability Planner at www. socialsecurity.gov/dibplan. Question: My grandmother recently died and left me about $5,000 in cash. Will this affect my Supplemental Security Income? Answer: Yes, it most likely will. We count the money as income in the month you receive it, which means you will not be eligible for an SSI payment the month that you receive the $5,000. Because there is a resource limit of $2,000 for an individual (or $3,000 for a couple), the amount you keep after the month you received it will count as a resource and may make you ineligible for a payment. As long as you have more than the resource limit, you will not be eligible for an SSI payment. It is important that you report to us the amount you receive and then let us know when your resources fall below the limit. Learn more about SSI by reading or listening to our online publication, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), available at www.socialsecurity.gov/ pubs.


Page 8 Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, July 18, 2013

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Painting FROM PAGE 6 Last summer, a team from Week of Hope, a regular participant in the Metro Paint-A-Thon, painted her home. “I didn’t even realize a program like this existed. I marvel at these young kids volunteering their time to help an older person they don’t even know,� said Senstad. It isn’t just kids that volunteer. Metro Paint-A-Thon offers an intergenerational experience that appeals to groups like the one from St. John the Baptist. “It’s a great way to get families together to do something. Ages range from youngsters to seniors, all working together,� said Rylander. Esterl agrees. “Families bring young children. The Knights of Columbus volunteers with older people. We cover every age with Metro Paint-A-Thon,� she said. Metro Paint-A-Thon is currently looking for volunteers. For more information, go to paintathon.gmcc.org or call 612276-1579. Contact Emily Hedges at emilyLhedges@ yahoo.com.

Two members of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church put the ďŹ nishing touches on a garage door during 2012 Metro Paint-A-Thon weekend.

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Second chances BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER Colleen Foley is a dog lover. For the 57-year-old Bloomington resident, there is nothing as rewarding as helping turn a neglected, injured dog into a loving and happy family pet. That’s why Colleen volunteers as a foster mom with Act V Rescue and Rehabilitation. “Act V is a mile from my house. They are awesome,” said Colleen. “These dogs are in rough shape and need medical care. I love seeing the transformation.” Four women with a passion to Colleen Foley decrease animal suffering founded Act V four years ago. The nonprofit fosterbased organization is dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming the most unwanted and neglected animals. It all began when veterinarian Vicki Schulz visited a friend doing transport for Keshena Animal Help and Rescue on the Native American reservation in Keshena, Wisc. While there, Schultz, a 25-year veteran of animal rescue, ran into a dog with porcupine quills embedded in his mouth. “We took it to the police to remove the quills and then went around and did a few house calls. It’s there we discovered there was a great need on the reservations,” she said. On a subsequent visit, Schulz brought along three animal-loving friends. “After they came with me, they were really excited to start a nonprofit. On the way home, we talked about it and it went from there,” she said. Act V currently gets the majority of their needy animals from the Red Lake reservation. Red Lake Rosie’s, run by 62-year-old Karen Good, is a group that gives shelter to abandoned and injured dogs and cats. The first dog that Colleen ever fostered came from the Red Lake Reservation. “Brian had a collar embedded in his neck so deep he had to have surgery to get it out,” said Colleen. “I fostered him, and he came around. He was just a love, a dream. We sent pictures of him snuggling

to the people who caught him, and they couldn’t believe it was the same dog.” Colleen says almost all of these animals can be transformed with love and attention. “I try to socialize them. I take them for rides. We go to the dog park. Each dog is good at something, not always everything,” she said. “It’s wonderful to see how grateful they are.” Colleen has fostered about a dozen pets, five so far with Act V. She credits much of her success as a foster mom to her helpers – Leo, Mickey and Jesse, her three dogs. “My dogs teach them how to behave. For example, going potty. They learn from my dogs that everybody goes outside,” she said. According to Colleen, Leo is the top dog of the family. Red Lake Rosie’s found him in the dump with his ears cut off. Mickey, who she refers to as the family police officer, is the one who keeps everybody in line if they get too crazy. “Just Jesse” is the one who gets invited most often to accompany Foley on errands. “We call him ‘Just Jesse’ because that’s what I say: ‘Just Jesse can go,’” she said. Because Act V has limited space, the number of animals they can help depends on people like Colleen who will open their homes. To make fostering a positive experience, they take great pains to match the right animal with the right foster home. “We visit their home, see their lifestyle, and figure out what kind of animal to place there. We offer training so everyone is on the same page,” said Vicki. “It takes a special foster to take in one of these injured guys. It can be hard to place them and we don’t want them to bounce around.” Colleen wishes more people would put aside their fears and concerns and give fostering a try. “People are always saying, ‘I couldn’t do it. I’d get too bonded.’ That drives me crazy. It is hard, but you meet the new family and see how excited they are,” said Colleen. “There is a huge need and I wish more people would do it.” For more information on Act V Rescue & Rehabilitation, go to www.actvrescue. org. Contact Emily Hedges at emilyLhedges@ yahoo.com.

Vicki Schulz, left, co-founder of Act V Rescue & Rehabilitation, tends to Duchess, one of their dogs in need of a foster home. The dog is wearing goggles to protect its eyes from a medical laser.


Page 10 Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, July 18, 2013

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BY RHONDA WHITENACK AND JIM CZECHOWICZ Who’s on first base? You are, when the time comes to do business with Social Security. We always place customer service first and strive to hit a home run with every person we serve. What’s on second? Our heavy-hitting team of top-rated online services, that’s what! For example, you can use my Social Security to set up an account and get access to your Social Security Statement to see estimates of your future benefits. If you know your bases are loaded and you are ready to retire, you can hit the ball out of the park with our online retirement application. You’ll find it all at www.socialsecurity.gov. And third base? I don’t know. It’s hard to know when the right time to retire may be. Or, whether retirement planning will even be your first play with Social Security, given that we also pitch disability and survivors benefits. The future may be as unpredictable as a World Series winner on opening day. But what we do know is that our online tools and services can help you plan for whatever your Social Security needs may be throughout your lifetime. The tried and true “Who’s On First” comedy routine made famous by Abbott and Costello is as American as baseball, apple pie and Social Security. Baseball is an annual rite of summer and a game known for its numbers. Cal Ripken’s record 2,632 consecutive games played. Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. These and countless other baseball statistics tell stories greater than the numbers themselves. Mention any one of these to a baseball fan and you’re sure to call to mind memories and stories. Social Security’s numbers tell stories too. The first lump sum Social Security payment of 17 cents was made to Ernest Ackerman in 1937. The first monthly Social Security check of $22.54 went to Ida

May Fuller in January 1940. This year, about 58 million Americans will receive $821 billion in Social Security benefits. The average monthly benefit for a retired worker in 2013 is $1,262. An estimated 161 million workers are covered under Social Security – 94 percent of the workforce. Of those, 51 percent of workers have no private pension coverage and 34 percent have no savings set aside specifically for retirement. These and other numbers make it easy to appreciate the value of Social Security. Nine out of 10 Americans age 65 and older receive Social Security benefits. And among the unmarried, 46 percent rely on Social Security benefits for 90 percent or more of their income. Retirement benefits are just one of the many benefits Social Security provides. Disabled workers and their dependents account for 19 percent of the total benefits paid, while survivors benefits account for 11 percent. One in four of today’s 20-year olds will become disabled before reaching age 67, and the majority of these workers have no long-term disability insurance besides their Social Security coverage. About one in eight of today’s 20-year olds will die before reaching age 67. The dependent families of these deceased workers are often eligible for survivors benefits. Who’s on first is you. What’s on second is our suite of useful tools and information on all of our benefits, which you can find at www.socialsecurity.gov. And third? We may not know, but in baseball and life, statistics can tell us the odds. Knowing these numbers and visiting Social Security’s website for a little retirement and financial planning can help you know when to swing away at retirement. Learn more about Social Security by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov. The authors are with the Social Security Public Affairs office in Bloomington and St Paul


Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, July 18, 2013 Page 11

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Hearing Loss and Dementia Linked in Study Seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing, a study by Johns Hopkins and National Institute on Aging researchers suggests. The findings, the researchers say, could lead to new ways to combat dementia, a condition that affects millions of people world-wide and carries heavy societal burdens. Although the reason for the link between the two conditions is unknown, the investigators suggest that a common pathology may underlie both or that the strain of decoding sounds over the years may overwhelm the brains of

people with hearing loss, leaving them more vulnerable to dementia. They also speculate that hearing loss could lead to dementia by making individuals more socially isolated, a known risk factor for dementia and other cognitive disorders. Whatever the cause, the scientists report, their finding may offer a starting point for interventions — even as simple as hearing aids — that could delay or prevent dementia by improving patients’ hearing. “Researchers have looked at what affects hearing loss, but few have looked at how hearing loss affects cognitive brain

function,” says study leader Franklin, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Division of Otology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “There hasn’t been much crosstalk between otologists and geriatricians, so it’s been unclear whether hearing loss and dementia are related.” To make the connection, Lin and his colleagues used data from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging (BLSA). The BLSA, initiated by the National Institute on Aging in 1958, has tracked various health factors in thousands of men and women over decades. The new study, published in the February Archives of Neu-

rology, focused on 639 people whose hearing and cognitive abilities were tested as part of the BLSA between 1990 and 1994. While about a quarter of the volunteers had some hearing loss at the start of the study, none had dementia. These volunteers were then closely followed with repeat examinations every one to two years, and by 2008, 58 of them had developed dementia. The researchers found that study participants with hearing loss at the beginning of the study were significantly more likely to develop dementia by the end. Compared with volunteers with normal hearing, those with mild, moder-

ate, and severe hearing loss had twofold, threefold, and fivefold, respectively, the risk of developing dementia over time. The more hearing loss they had, the higher their likelihood of developing the memory-robbing disease. Even after the researchers took into account other factors that are associated with risk of dementia, including diabetes, high blood pressure, age, sex and race, Lin explains, hearing loss and dementia were still strongly connected. “A lot of people ignore hearing loss because it’s such as low and insidious process as we age,” Lin says. “Even if people feel as if they are not affected,

we’re showing that it may well be a more serious problem.” Warning signs of hearing loss include difficulty hearing in noisy situations, like restaurants, trouble understanding women’s and children’s voices, needing to ask people to repeat themselves, problems hearing on the telephone and having to turn the radio and television louder. If you suspect there may be a problem, it is recommended that you get your hearing tested. The research was supported by the intramural research program of the National Institute on Aging

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Page 12 Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, July 18, 2013

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